We’re in the Golden Age of Surveillance

It’s the world’s intelligence agencies against the rest of us. Who’s going to bell that cat?

And Denmark Is Just the Tip of the Iceberg

Denmark was a benchmark. What happened? Until a little more than a week ago Denmark was considered by the entire world to be one of the four pillars of Scandinavia’s renowned decency and equal opportunity. Suddenly we find them secretly aiding and abetting the National Security Agency (NSA), the US cyber-spy/surveillance behemoth, to eavesdrop on leaders of Denmark’s European family of nations. As if that weren’t sordid enough, if we tug on the Danish thread we discover some frightening little-known surveillance/cyber-spying facts that are even more alarming.

Scandinavia has long been a model for the rest of the developed world, something other countries could aspire to. Even their politicians were honest, if you can imagine that. Denmark was at the forefront, notably in education and democratic government. It ranked eighth in 2019 in the Statistics Times.com Democracy Index, after Norway, Iceland, Sweden, New Zealand, Finland, Ireland, and Canada. That was three slots down from its 2018 ranking, at number five. On this same list the United States ranked 25th and fell into the category of “flawed democracies.” (Source: statisticstimes.com)

The Danes Let the Cat Out of the Bag

The excrement hit the ventilator on Sunday, May 30, when the Danish international broadcaster in English, DR, perhaps in a damage-control effort, reported that during the period 2012-2014 the Danish cyber-intelligence agency had passed files of German chancellor, Angela Merkel’s private telephone conversations to the NSA. This information was worldwide news in 2013, but the implications of the item were drastically obscured or underplayed at the time.

Let’s look at the pedigree of the other party to the matter, the National Security Agency (NSA). It was officially created by President Harry Truman, who upgraded a unit that deciphered coded communications in World War II, awarded it a new name and greatly expanded its budget and its remit. It’s now responsible for global monitoring, collection and processing of information and data for foreign and domestic intelligence and counterintelligence purposes. It is a branch of the US Department of Defense, under the authority of the director of National Intelligence. Today it is the largest of the U.S. intelligence organizations in terms of personnel and budget. We’re not sure what else it does, as it’s also the most secret of American defense agencies.

Edward Snowden and Julian Assange Jerk the Blanket

According to dw.com, Germany’s international broadcast service, the Danish government knew of the involvement of their country’s secret service in the NSA scandal at least since 2015. It was Edward Snowden, an NSA asset under contract to Booz Allen Hamilton before he became a whistleblower on an extended vacation in Russia, who alerted the Danes to their own intelligence service’s cooperation with the NSA. Snowden’s information, shared through Julian Assange’s WikiLeaks site, indicated that the Danish Forsvarets Efterretningstjeneste (FE) military intelligence branch was also passing illicit information to the NSA on high-level politicians from Sweden, Norway, the Netherlands and France, as well as Germany.

The unduly generous Danish intelligence service also helped the US agency to spy on the Danish foreign and finance ministries as well as a Danish weapons manufacturer. They also cooperated with the NSA on spying operations against the US government itself. This operation forms part of a larger scheme of things. Upon discovering exactly how far the cooperation between the two countries’ intelligence services went, the Danish government promptly fired the entire leadership of the FE in 2020–just five years after they allegedly discovered the abuses. (Source: dw.com)

The Press Steps In

France 24, the French international news service, was among the first off the line with this:

“The Danish Foreign Intelligence Service has worked closely with American spies for decades,” adding, “American cyber-spies want to wiretap the whole world, including their allies…”

France 24

Barton Gellman, the Pulitzer Prize–winning reporter for The Washington Post, who had covered Snowden’s revelations, commented on the seriousness of the leaks, alleging:

Taken together, the revelations have brought to light a global surveillance system that cast off many of its historical restraints after the attacks of Sept. 11, 2001. Secret legal authorities empowered the NSA to sweep in the telephone, Internet and location records of whole populations. 

The Washington Post

According to Gellman, the Snowden/Wikileaks documents unveiled details of the NSA’s distribution of data gathered in their domestic spying operations, not only to the FBI and the CIA, but also to the intelligence services of foreign countries including Britain, France, and Germany. The Wikileaks documents also reveal arrangements for foreign governments to share intercepted data of each other’s citizens. The revelations were made public over the course of several months since June 2013, by the press in several nations.

Worse Than We Were Led to Believe

According to an article in The Guardian, published on 8 July 2015, the Wikileaks documents reveal that the NSA recorded German chancellor, Angela Merkel’s telephone conversations (as well as text messages and even her fax communications), and those of her closest advisors for years, as well as those of her predecessors. The Wikileak documents indicate that this spying had been longer and more extensive than anyone knew, insofar as the NSA had the phone numbers of 125 highly-placed German officials earmarked for long-term surveillance.

Midst all this information promiscuity before the Wikileaks release, none of these abuses were made public. Courthouse News.com reports that the pilfered information was based on an internal Danish government investigation that the Danes had allegedly sat on for years. The reports shed more light on secret NSA surveillance programs that American whistleblower Edward Snowden first exposed in 2013.

U.S. President Joe Biden was the vice president when Snowden went public. At a moment when Biden is trying to reenergize the transatlantic relationship, the new revelations about Denmark’s willingness to let the American spy agency eavesdrop on its neighbors — reportedly, Germany, Sweden, Norway and France — damages the unity of the EU and erodes trust.

Courthouse News.com

A Fascinating Historical Precedent from Iran

This article in Iran’s Tehran Times, June 1, 2021, connects with similar events over the past half century. It tells the story of Crypto AG, an apparently Swiss company but in reality CIA and West German Intelligence owned operation. Crypto AG manufactured encryption machines. The worksmanship on the machines was characteristically excellent, but they included a hidden extra. Copies of all the supposedly secret messages they “encrypted” were sent directly to the CIA. The machines were sold to more than 120 countries–mostly non-western governments– well into the 21st century.

Be Especially Careful with Your Friends

Due to the United States’s intimate relations with Israel, their intelligence sharing brings with it unique problems. Shortly after the Danish revelations of 2013, Glenn GreenwaldLaura Poitras and Ewen MacAskill collaborated on an article for The Guardian. The story, based on Edward Snowden’s Wikileaks, affirms that “NSA shares raw intelligence including Americans’ data with Israel,” and elaborates on the dangers that entails, as well as evaluating the comparative benefits for each country. The short answer: Israel wins hands down. In another top-secret document seen by the Guardian, dated 2008, a senior NSA official points out that Israel aggressively spies on the US.

“On the one hand, the Israelis are extraordinarily good Sigint (signals intelligence) partners for us, but on the other, they target us to learn our positions on Middle East problems,” the official says. “A NIE [National Intelligence Estimate] ranked them as the third most aggressive intelligence service against the US.”

The Guardian

It’s Time to Talk about Treason

“Treason” is a concept usually employed or implied in connection with whistleblowers and spies. According to a commentary written for Constitution Center.org by Paul T. Crane, U.S. Department of Justice; and Deborah Pearlstein, Professor of Law and Co-Director of the Floersheimer Center for Constitutional Democracy at New York’s Yeshiva University ; Article 3 of Section III of the US Constitution defines treason in the United States:

Treason against the United States, shall consist only in levying War against them, or in adhering to their Enemies, giving them Aid and Comfort. No Person shall be convicted of Treason unless on the Testimony of two Witnesses to the same overt Act, or on Confession in open Court. The Congress shall have Power to declare the Punishment of Treason…

All of that is quite clear, but it leaves us with an important doubt. Is the law reciprocal? Is the US government to be held responsible for the betrayal of their own citizens, a sort of inverted treason? “Yes, but it’s not ‘levying war,'” they will say. That is a specious excuse. Like all the rest of the American wars of late, it’s not declared, but it’s waged by the US Department of Defense, America’s largest government agency, through the richly-endowed, highly-confidential National Security Agency. If it walks like a duck…

In today’s state of affairs it is impossible to qualify or quantify the amount of damage done by the NSA’s fingering of American citizens to foreign military organizations, but it’s safe to surmise that it’s not inconsiderable. What recourse is available to Americans who consider themselves gravely wronged by their own government for no apparent reason? Clearly, this is a question for the federal courts to determine, those courts that were so richly larded with extreme-right-wing judges under the Trump administration. Whatever the circumstances and impediments, this is a matter that bears serious study and maybe legal action.

The Old Days

In the old days, perhaps two weeks ago, citizens of virtually all countries lived in fear of other countries. And that fear was fomented by most of them in order to provide psychological cover for their international intelligence dalliances. Now it emerges quite clearly that it’s not “other countries” they have to fear. It’s the frightful combination of their own all-powerful security agencies. The “information agencies” are no longer just about information–they never were–and we have just had a privileged peep into their joint operations.

Today they are suspects of the first order. And they’re all in the conspiracy together. They’re fabulously well financed. They count on their own and proxy armies, already in place around the world. They are equipped with the latest in high-tech weaponry and increasingly-important big-data technology. They are experts in sowing disharmony, distrust, and instability in fragile societies, and they’re being kicked out of some of their current spheres of operation. They have a reliable track record of takeovers and regime changes. The only thing they lack is scruples. Do you doubt that at this very moment one of them is sitting with his feet up on his desk, musing, “Why don’t we just take over the world?” Though, we don’t need to worry about that preliminary stage. They are already under way.

Before pronouncing this a “conspiracy theory,” let me suggest that we consider it merely a hypothesis.


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